There are many guerrilla tools to choose from. Here are the top ten effective guerrilla tools. Use them as much as possible.
Your Web site will be your virtual storefront. It will be, in many instances, the way that potential clients are first introduced to you and your business. It's the first thing they'll see, so make sure the site reflects your services and puts them in a positive light. Creating a Web site is one of the most important marketing steps you will take. In this day and age, almost everybody and every business has a Web page promoting their services. With a well-designed site, your business can appear larger and more professional than it actually is.
Through today's search engines, potential customers can easily find you. Just make sure you use the right words for Search Engine Optimization. While SEO is an inexact science, there are some general guidelines that will make you appear high in the results of search engines like Google and Yahoo.
Include images on your site; many people search for images first.
Be specific about the types of catering you offer. If you cater picnics and kids parties, be sure to mention that on your site.
If you don't know how to build a Web site or don't have a friend who will build one for you, it's easy to do on your own. Find a company that has the capability to sell you a domain name and host your Web site. Many companies like Network Solutions have powerful software that allows their clients to build their sites themselves very easily with little or no technical knowledge.
There are thousands of freelance Web site designers out there. Your Web designer need not be located where you are. Everything can be done by phone and by Web. Network with everyone you know and ask for a Web designer referral.
All you have to do is sketch out how you want your site to look. Pick what you want people to see on your home page, perhaps a photo of a beautiful buffet that you catered or a photo of people eating your famous muffins and pastries?
You'll need to figure out how many pages you'd like to have on your site. Most small business sites, for example, can start with five pages:
About Us page, where you list your skills, background, current customers, mission statement, and other general information about your business
Menu page, which gives prospective clients an idea about the type of food that you provide
Recent Events and Partial Client List page, which will display photos from a variety of your events and a list of clients. If you can, get feedback from clients and ask if you can post what they write on your Web site.
Pricing and Details page, which spells out costs and downpayment policies; this can also include information on the geographic area you cover
Rather than paying to print full-color brochures that can easily become outdated, it's cheaper, easier, and more efficient to have information detailed on a page on your site. You can update prices, menu options, types of services, and policies as often as you'd like.
Free Publicity and Public Relations
Guerrilla marketers don't pay for public relations consultants. They generate positive PR themselves. Whether it's volunteering to cater food for the ravenous participants of a local park's cleanup day or baking a massive gingerbread cookie and decorating it to look like the Queen of England, clever caterers can get themselves on the local television news, in the newspaper, and on blogs by using some creativity and ingenuity.
If you're a wedding caterer, partner with local media outlets to run a contest. Approach a local television station or newspaper. Television stations and newspapers are always running contests to boost viewership. It will be good for them and good for you. Offer to cater a wedding for a local couple if the station will promote you for a period of at least a month. The station may give you free on-air mentions, list you on their Web site, or even run your ad or spot for free or at a very discounted rate.
Think about who you want to see your publicity efforts. If you want local society women to learn about you, then volunteer to bake the biggest cupcake that the town has ever seen for the biggest children's charity event of the year. They can serve the cupcake to the kids or auction it off for a charitable donation.
If you want event planners to notice you, then maybe you should camp outside a big event planner convention and offer each planner an edible menu. Today there are machines that can easily transfer photographs onto cookies and cakes. Put your name, phone number, Web site, and catering specialty on an edible cookie shaped like a menu to pass out to event planners. It will certainly get their attention.
E-mail and Direct Mail
You can introduce yourself for free to potential clients through e-mail. Collect a list of decision makers and their e-mail addresses. Send a group e-mail or a formal printed invitation inviting them to taste your food. Spend money and mail invitations first class. Handwrite the address so it won't look like junk mail. Your invitation will get opened and your intriguing event will get positive replies. Just make sure to let busy event planners pick from a couple of different dates and times for their special tasting. Confirm that each person is a decision maker for at least $10,000 worth of catering a year and invite a group for a special tasting.
Generating positive word-of-mouth about your catering will be the best thing that you can possibly do to build your business. The best way to do this is to ensure that you have satisfied customers. You must follow up with clients and make sure they had a good experience with you. If not, find out what they didn't like and attempt to fix the problem.
If you work hard to get new clients and big catering jobs, your efforts will start to pay off. Even if you don't get a particular job, the same client will often come back to have you give them a proposal for another job if you made a good initial impression. Go the extra mile for your new customers.
Print and Online Directories
Once you have a Web site and are open for business, take the time to make sure that you're listed in all local publications in print and on the Internet. Whether it's a list of local caterers that's listed online or a local business resources booklet distributed by the local chamber of commerce, get listed in as many resources as possible. Make sure listings are free or low-cost.
There are all sorts of directories to consider. Make sure you're listed in everything from movie-crew catering to the local yellow pages. There's a long lead time for printing new yellow pages directories, so call the local phone book companies early to get their rates. All you need is a listing, preferably in bold. If a small ad is affordable, buy one. If not, spend your valuable marketing dollars elsewhere.
Offer to cater some well-publicized charity or promotional events that attract the type of people you would like to work for. If you want to focus on wedding catering, offer to cater events where there will be a lot of twenty-somethings in attendance, like charity athletic events and dance-a-thons. If the budget is tight, offer to cut your prices and charge the labor and food costs to your marketing budget. If it's the right event and it has high visibility with lots of local media coverage and public relations, then it can give you invaluable contact with potential customers. Make sure to have your business cards available all over the event and that your business name and contact information is included on all press releases and printed materials.
It's easy to get lists of prospective clients. Get a list of local companies at your local library, chamber of commerce, or local business paper. Call the main number of each company and ask to speak to the person in charge of event planning. If there is no event planner, then ask to speak to someone who entertains clients or who arranges company parties. Make a list of decision makers at local companies. These will be excellent prospects.
Call your prospects to invite them to a special tasting. If they're too busy to come to you, offer to drop off a boxed lunch if they'll give you ten minutes of their time to meet you and talk about their event needs while they eat. For a free lunch, many people will take you up on your offer.
The more people you can meet and tell about your catering company, the more quickly your company will grow. Try to meet as many people in your target audience as possible. Ask vendors if they can refer you to some of their good clients in return for recommending them to your clients. Go to as many local meetings and events as possible. Get involved with the local chamber of commerce, and join local hospital and charity boards. People on boards entertain.
Combine your other passions with valuable networking. If you love golf, network on the golf course. If you're a woman, join local women's networking groups. If you're a minority, join your local minority business owners association.
The more groups you belong to and the more that people in your town get to know you, the more likely it is that they're going to trust you and try out your services. You need to become a local fixture in the community.
Print at least 1,000 business cards. There are many places online today that print professional-looking business cards inexpensively. There's no need to pay a graphic designer or create a fancy logo. Use vertical layouts and different colored inks to make your business card stand out from the rest.
Every interaction with a customer or potential customer is a touch point. The key to a successful business is maximizing the experience that a customer has with each touch point. The first e mail or phone conversation a customer has with you is a vital touch point, but each successive meeting shouldn't be taken for granted. Understanding this will go a long way to ensuring your success.
Use food tastings as a marketing tool, not as a sales closer. People will buy your services based on you, your reputation, and your proposal. Use special group tastings as a cost-effective way to develop relationships with potential clients, deepen relationships with current customers, and test new menu ideas.
Rather than having tastings for each client after they sign their contract, organize a special tasting every season and invite good past clients along with clients whose affairs are upcoming. This way, your new clients can talk to your established, happy clients and you can save time and effort by conducting group tastings.
Remember that tastings are just that. You can serve new hors d'oeuvres, new side dishes, and desserts. Serving family style can also be appropriate. Place one full-sized completed plate of each menu item elevated at the center of the table, and offer tasting guests a small sample from another plate. Tastings are not meals. Every item from your menu shouldn't be served, nor should clients be getting substantial portions.
People really have to see images of your setups and parties, taste your food, and meet you in order to buy your services, so spend money on marketing efforts that will allow your targets to meet you, see what you do, and taste your magic.